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BA tweaks its frequent flyer program to stick it to economy class

British Airways is the latest airline to revamp its rewards program to make the rich richer, and the poor poorer: business- and first-class passengers will earn many more frequent flyer miles, and economy-class passengers will earn far fewer.

Under the new rules, which take effect in April, the cheapest economy-class tickets will accrue 75% fewer BA miles, which it calls Avios, so that a 1,000-mile trip would only earn 250 Avios, instead of 1,000 Avios currently. First class passengers, meanwhile, would earn 3,000 miles for the same flight, up from 2,000 Avios currently.

“This change is pretty in line with what I expect from airlines in 2015,” observed “Lucky,” the pseudonymous author of the widely-read One Mile at a Time blog. “British Airways is being less rewarding to those on lower fares. British Airways is being more rewarding to those on expensive fares.”

The changes, which have been mirrored by other airlines like Cathay Pacific, are the result of the incredibly favorable conditions that airlines find themselves in: passenger demand is high, airplanes are full, and fuel prices are low. That means airlines like BA can compete even more fiercely for the loyalty of profitable business travelers, financed by squeezing the saps who fly coach.

The revamped policy also makes it more expensive to experience the premium cabin lifestyle solely by redeeming miles.

For example, a trip from the US east coast to London currently costs 80,000 Avios for business class and 120,000 for first class; that will soon rise to 100,000 for business and 136,000 for first during off-peak travel times, and 120,000/160,000 during peak times. Although the changes are varied, British Airways is essentially devaluing its in-house currency.

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